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Architect Certification in the Cloud Era

Certification for enterprise business architects, and such industry initiatives as ArchiMate are proving instrumental

We've assembled a panel in conjunction with the recent Open Group Conference in Austin, Texas, to explore the impact and role of certifications for IT professionals. Examine here how certification for enterprise architects, business architects, and such industry initiatives as ArchiMate are proving instrumental as IT organizations seek to reinvent themselves.

There are now a lot of shifts in skills and a lot of movement about how organizations should properly staff themselves. There have been cost pressures and certification issues for regulation and the adoption of new technologies. We're going to look at how all these are impacting the role of certification out in the field.

Here to help better understand how an organization like The Open Group is alleviating the impact and supporting the importance of finding verified IT skills is Steve Philp, Marketing Director for Professional Certification at The Open Group; Andrew Josey, Director of Standards at The Open Group, and James de Raeve, Vice President of Certification at The Open Group. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: The Open Group is a Sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:

de Raeve: The primary driver here that we're hearing from members and customers is that they need to get more out of the investments that they're making -- their payroll for their IT staff. They need to get more productivity. And that has a number of consequences.

Realizing talent

They want to ensure that the people they are employing and that they're staffing their teams with are effective. They want to be sure that they're not bringing in external experts when they don’t need to. So there is a need to realize the talent that they've actually got in their internal IT community and to develop that talent, nurture it, and exploit it for the benefit of the organization.

And professionalism, professionalization, and profession frameworks are all tools that can be used in identifying, measuring, and developing the talents and capabilities of your people. That seems to be the major driver.

Philp: Something I have noticed since joining The Open Group is that we’ve got some skills and experience-based certifications. They seem to be the things that people are particularly interested in, because it’s not just a test of your knowledge about a particular vendor or product, but how you have applied your skills and experience out there in the marketplace. They have proven to be very successful in helping people assess where they are and in working towards developing a career path.

That’s one of the areas of certification that things are going to move more towards -- more skills and experience-based certification programs in organizations.

Looking at certification in general, you still have areas like Microsoft MCSE, Microsoft technical specialist, application development, and project management that are in demand, and things like CCNA from Cisco. But I've also noticed a lot more in the security field. CISSP and CCSA seem to be the ones that are always getting a lot of attention. In terms of security, the trends in mobile computing, cloud computing, means that security certification is a big growth area.

There is a need for people too in the building of teams and in the delivering of results to nurture and grow their people to be team players and team participants.

We're just about to put a security track into our Certified IT Specialist Program at The Open Group, so there will be a skills and experience-based track for security practitioners soon.

de Raeve: There is a whole world out there of technology and product-related certifications that are fulfilling a very important function in helping people establish and demonstrate their knowledge of those particular products and technologies.

But there is a need for people too in the building of teams and in the delivering of results to nurture and grow their people to be team players and team participants and to be able to work with them to function within the organization as, for want of a better term, "t-shaped people," where there are a number of soft and people-related skills and potentially architecture related skills for the IT specialists, and skills and capabilities enable people to be rounded professionals within an organization.

T-shaped people

It’s that aspect that differentiates the professionalization and the profession-oriented certification programs that we're operating here at The Open Group -- The Open Certified Architect, The Open Certified IT Specialist. Those are t-shaped people and we think that makes a huge difference. It’s what’s going to enable organizations to be more effective by developing their people to have that more rounded t-shaped capability.

Josey: We see the certification as being the ultimate drive in the uptake of the standards, and so we're able to go from not just having a standard on the shelf to actually seeing it being deployed in the field and used. We've actually got some people certification programs, such as TOGAF, and we've got some over 20,000 practitioners now.

We've gone through the certification program and we've been using and evangelizing, TOGAF as a standard in the field and then feeding that back to our members and, through the association, the feedback improvements to the standards. So it’s very much part of the end-to-end ecosystem -- developing a standard for deploying it, and getting people on it, and then getting the feedback in the right way.

Philp: It’s very much an important part of the process now. TOGAF and IT Architect Certification (ITAC) have appeared in a number of RFPs for government and for major manufacturing organizations. So it’s important that the suppliers and the buyers recognize these programs.

Similarly with recruitment, you find that things like TOGAF will appear in most recruitment ads for architects. Certainly, people want knowledge of it, but more and more you’ll see TOGAF certification is required as well.

ITAC, which is now Open CA, has also appeared in a number of recruitment ads for members like Logica, Capgemini, Shell. More recently, organizations like the CBS, EADS, ADGA Group, Direct Energy have requested it. And the list goes on. It’s a measure of how important the awareness is for these certifications and that’s something we will continue to drive at The Open Group.

In development

Josey: ArchiMate certification is something new that we’re developing right now. We haven’t deployed a certification program as yet. The previous certification program was under the ArchiMate Foundation, which was the body that developed ArchiMate, before it transferred into The Open Group.

We’re currently working on the new program which will be similar to some aspects of our TOGAF program, and it’ll be knowledge base certification with an assessment by exam and a practical assessment in which the candidate can actually do modeling. So this will be people certification and there will also be accredited training course certification.

And then also what we're going to do there is actually to provide certification for tools. There will be certifications there.

That’s pretty much what we’re doing in ArchiMate, so we don’t have a firm timeline. So it will not be available it looks like, probably towards the end of the year would be the earliest, but possibly early next year.

ArchiMate is a modeling language for enterprise architecture (EA) in general and specifically it’s a good fit for TOGAF. It’s a way of communicating and developing models for TOGAF EA. Originally it was developed by the Telematica Instituut and funded, I think, by the EU and a number of commercial companies in the Netherlands. It was actually brought into The Open Group in 2008 by the ArchiMate Foundation and is now managed by the ArchiMate Forum within The Open Group.

The latest version of TOGAF is TOGAF 9 for certification. As we mentioned earlier, there are two types of certification programs, skills and knowledge based. TOGAF falls into the knowledge based camp. We have two levels. TOGAF 9 Foundation, which is our level one, is for individuals to assess that they know the terminology and basic concepts of EA in TOGAF.

Level two, which is a superset of level one, in addition assesses analysis and comprehension. The idea is that some people who are interested in just getting familiar with TOGAF and those people who work around enterprise architects can go into TOGAF Foundation. And these enterprise architects themselves should initially start with the TOGAF Certified, the level two, and then perhaps move on later to Open CA. That will be helpful.

For TOGAF 9 Certification, we introduced that by midyear 2009. We launched TOGAF 9 in February, and it took a couple of months to just roll out all these certifications through all the exam channels.

Since then, we’ve gone through 8,000 certifications. We've seen that two-thirds of those were at the higher level, level two, for EA practitioners and one-third of those are currently at the foundation level.

A new area

Philp: Business architecture is a new area that we've been working on. Let me just to go back to what we did on the branding, because it ties in with that. We launched The Open Group’s new website recently and we used that as the opportunity to re-brand ITAC as The Open Group Certified Architect (Open CA) program. The IT Specialist Certification (ITSC) has now become The Open Group Certified IT Specialist or Open CITS Program.

We did the rebranding at that time, because we wanted to be it associated with the word “open.” We wanted to give the skills and experience-based certification a closer linkage to The Open Group. That’s why we changed from ITAC to Open CA. But, we’ve not changed the actual program itself. Candidates still have to create a certification package and be interviewed by three board members, and there are still three levels of certification: Certified, Master, and Distinguished.

However, what we’re intending to do is have some core requirements that architects need to meet, and then add some specific specializations for different types of architects. The one that we’ve been working on the most recently is the Business Architecture Certification. This came about from an initiative about 18 months ago.

We formed something called the Business Forum with a number of platinum members who got involved with it --companies like IBM, HP, SAP, Oracle and Capgemini. We’ve been defining the conformance requirements for the business architecture certification. It's going through the development process and hopefully will be launched sometime later this year or early next year.

“For the first time we feel like management is paying attention to us.”

de Raeve: There's a very good example [of the importance of staffing issues in IT] ..., and they’ve done a presentation about this in one of our conferences. It's Philips, and they used to have an IT workforce that was divided among the business units. The different businesses had their own IT function.

They changed that and went to a single IT function across the organization, providing services to the businesses. In doing so, they needed to rationalize things like grades, titles, job descriptions, and they were looking around for a framework within which they could do this and they evaluated a number of them.

They were working with a partner who wass helping them do this. The partner was an Open Group member and suggested they look at the Open Group’s IT Specialist Certification, the CITS Certification Program, as it provides a set of definitions for the capabilities and skills required for IT professionals. They picked it up and used it, because it covered the areas they were interested in.

This was sufficient and complete enough to be useful to them, and it was vendor neutral, and an industry best practice. So they could pick this up and use it with confidence. And that has been very successful. They initially benchmarked their entire 900 strong IT workforce against The Open Group definition, so they could get to calibrate themselves, where their people were on their journey through development as professionals.

It’s had a very significant impact in terms of not only enabling them to get a handle upon their people, but also in terms of their employee engagement.

They’ve started to embrace the certification programs as a method of not only measuring their people, but also rewarding them. It’s had a very significant impact in terms of not only enabling them to get a handle upon their people, but also in terms of their employee engagement. In the engagement surveys that they do with their staff, some of the comments they got back after they started doing this process were, “For the first time we feel like management is paying attention to us.”

It was very positive feedback, and the net result is that they are well on their way to meeting their goal of no longer having automatically to bring in an external service provider whenever they were dealing with a new project or a new topic. They know that they’ve got people with sufficient expertise in-house on their own payroll now. They've been able to recognize that capability, and the use of it has had a very positive effect. So it’s a very strong good story.

I think that the slides will be available to our members in the conference’s proceedings from the London conference in April. That will be worth something to look at.

Philp: If you go to the Open Group website, www.opengroup.org/certifications, all of the people based certifications are there, along with the benefits for individuals, benefits for organizations and various links to the appropriate literature. There’s also a lot of other useful things, like self-assessment tests, previous webinars, sample packages, etc. That will give you more of an idea of what’s required for certification along with the conformance requirements and other program documentation. There’s a lot of useful information on the website.

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More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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